We, as fans, focus on the fact the Tampa Bay Times Forum's primary function is to be the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. We can easily let it slip that Times Palace has been one of the busiest and most successful venues in the world during its 15 years of operation.
And while the focus of the $40 million in renovations at the Forum in 2011 focused a great deal on the fan experience and making things more aesthetically pleasing, there were also changes made to unseen functions at Times Palace, specifically the heating/ventilation and air conditioning system of the building that not only keeps the climate inside the Forum pleasant for visitors, but also keeps the ice surface in the best shape possible.
Major events preceding hockey games, at any venue across the league, is going to present a challenge to the ice crew to get their playing surface up to muster. Tonight's game between the Bolts and the New York Islanders is no exception to that. Hockey being played in warm weather isn't the problem. It's the ice-versus-Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band that is the problem. A packed house watched The Boss do his thing last night, and the Forum conversion crew and Lightning Ice Operations staff have their work cut out for them today.
My point is, keep an eye on ice conditions tonight. That could very well have a bearing on how players perform.
Dwayne Roloson starts in net for the Lightning tonight in this third-to-final home game of the season. Roloson showed flashes of brilliance that we saw late last season, while stopping 34 of 36 shots on goal by the Edmonton Oilers in the Lightning's shootout win on Thursday. Roloson doesn't plan to hang up his skates despite such a disappointing season: he plans to play next season if the opportunity should present itself.
Nate Thompson and Adam Hall remain out of the Lightning lineup with their respective injuries, once again putting a deficit in the defensive-forward ranks. Tampa Bay managed to win 56% of their faceoffs against the Oilers on Thursday.
This will be Tim Wallace's first game against his old team. Wallace has four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in 11 games since being picked off waivers from the Isles in late February. There were cat-calls on Twitter and elsewhere when Wallace was claimed, saying that he was simply a "warm body" for a team that had traded away starters... Yet Wallace has been a pleasant surprise since joining the team.
The Islanders enter the game having won their past two and have 71 points on the season. They'd love nothing more than to win tonight and leapfrog the Lightning in the standings and out of the cellar of the East.
Even if the Isles get out of the cellar - the roof is caving in. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the NHL's oldest building, is being investigated for asbestos. The Isles have been trying - and repeatedly failing - to get a new arena built to replace the aging Vet. The new concerns may force the team out of the building sooner than the lease stipulates.